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(Bar) Mitzvahs For Everybody

August 26, 2010

Feminism teaches us that “accommodating” people’s differences and dis/abilities doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it often leaves everybody better off. Prime example, my cousin Alexsander’s bar mitzvah last weekend.

Oma (my grandmother) being silly and wonderful

I haven’t attended a ton of these ceremonies, so I don’t have a huge sample for comparison, but I can say that this was one of the most fun, heartfelt, and moving coming-of-age traditional ceremonies I can imagine. Musical, personal, participatory. Precious community and sympathetic joy in abundance. And Sander took to the mic like anything.

Much of the brief ceremony featured Sander's beautiful singing of prayers.

Sander wasn’t the only one in attendance whose bar mitzvah was a special celebration of triumph. His grandfather, Hans, risked his own life in World War II by performing his bar mitzvah in a concentration camp. As my oma would say, “Can you imagine?”

New-man Sander lets out a kingly yawp.

Of course, the whole event was emotional, but the moment that really wrung the tears out of me was the speech by Sander’s mom, my cousin Suzie.

Today Alexsander becomes a man and yet it seems like yesterday when we sang nursery songs together, took stroller walks and read Dr. Suess books. It is from the Dr. Suess book “Gerald McBoing Boing” that I wish to paraphrase to describe my pride in our son, Sander.

They say it all started when Sander was two.

That’s the age kids start talking-least, most of them do.

Well, when he started talking, you know what he said?

He didn’t talk words- he went “meow” instead!

And as little Sander grew older, he found when a fellow repeats

No one wants to give him treats.

When a fellow goes “skreek” he won’t have any friends,

For once he says, “clang, clang, clang,” all the fun ends.

And as the story goes, Rabbi Mintz seeks out Sander’s talent.

“Your Hebrew is terrific, your pitch is inspired!

“Quick – come to Friendship Circle, Sander! You are admired!”

Now his proud parents are able to boast

That their son’s singing is known coast to coast.

Now Sander has friends, and makes his bed

‘Cause he sometimes speaks words but mostly sings instead.

[A note about the title: while a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah refers to a particular Jewish rite of passage, colloquially a “mitzvah” can also mean an act of human kindness. For me, Sander’s bar mitzvah was a great reminder of the many mitzvahs we can all do for each other every day, simply by accepting and honoring each other as we are.]

5 Comments leave one →
  1. susan permalink
    August 26, 2010 9:47 pm

    Your photo’s captured Sander’s exuberance and love of performance. Thank you for making this site for “everybody”!!!! We really appreciated you making the trip down.

  2. Julie Kuhn permalink
    August 27, 2010 8:38 am

    Your blog just left tears to my eyes. Thanks for so eloquently summarizing this special day.

    Love Julie

  3. August 27, 2010 9:17 am

    What a joyful day, beautifully presented in many ways
    I am so glad to have been there, a joyous memoryof that day:
    With a mix of young and older even some shy, others bolder,
    the colors as varied as their dress and tastes,
    Hooray for Sander- Hooray for the smile on his face,
    No longer a boing-boing, a Gerald Mc or a Who who,
    his day, really special, thanks for arranging, sharing it too!

    gramma Leah

  4. August 27, 2010 9:47 am

    Dang, y’all are a beautiful and inspiring family. Especially the super-strong and radiant women!

    Great poem, gramma Leah. :)

    love,

    katie

  5. Erlinda permalink
    August 27, 2010 4:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing my Susie’s son’s bar mitzvah! FB and current technology keeps others abreast of others celebrations!

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